Someone asked me recently why I am a Christian. (Actually, they asked, “Are you one of those born-agains?”)
The question, phrased that way, kind of took me aback. I guess I expected that kind of question from someone less educated, less “cultured,” but this was not the case with my friend. So my first reaction was harsh judgment — this person must be either ignorant or very narrow. That was unfair. So I caught myself before I tossed out a rejoinder.
What does she mean? Who does she really think “one of you born-agains” is? Does she think those “born-agains” are armed and ready to fire on anyone who hates Jesus? Or just the opposite: pious, robed and holed up in monastery somewhere? Perhaps she has been “assaulted” by a zealous believer who, in her passion to convince friends of the wonders and veracity of her newfound faith, actually turned her off. Maybe she has seen televangelists — the embarrassing ones (even to believers) and thinks those represent the rest. Or maybe she just listens to the media, who paint their own, often twisted, picture of what a real Christian looks like.
So I asked, “What do you mean by ‘born agains’”? Her answer, accompanied by a shrug, was vague. Something about “being saved.” Over the din of a loud restaurant, and across a table of several people, I could not adequately respond. But I’ve thought about it.
So here, for anyone who cares to read, is what I believe and why.
I AM BORN AGAIN. (And for the record, I don’t believe you can be a Christian without being born again.) So what does that mean, anyway? First, it means I was (hello, obviously!) born physically into this world. It means, then, that I was born a second time, but the second time spiritually. I believe that the Bible is true. It isn’t fiction. I can’t pick and choose what I like, or don’t like, what I can explain, or can’t explain. And the Bible clearly paints a picture of a “second birth” — the moment when a human being chooses, of her own free will, to humbly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Who He says He is (the Son of God, and God Himself), turns from living for her own self, and believes that without Him she is nothing. She is now born of the Spirit.
Being born again also means being “saved.” I am saved from God’s judgment and wrath. I am saved from soul-death. I am saved from an eternity separated from all that is Good. I am saved from a life of confusion, despair, worry and anxiety, depression, loneliness and emptiness, and hopelessness. Being saved, however, does not mean we are saved from pain, or illness, or suffering. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have a lot of trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
It’s not really all that complicated. I think people put politics into it. Or all kinds of crazy religious or cultish twists to it. Heaven forbid. It is simple for those who recognize that “we are not ‘it’.” And it is hard for those who think it’s all about them. We’ve been brainwashed with false ‘science’ and evolution theory that, with major gaps in logic, says there is no Creator. “Educated” Americans are programmed to pooh-pooh the overwhelming evidence that an Intelligent Creator could have been the Architect of all of this we see and know (and don’t yet see and know). It’s too scary for them. We aren’t in control here? Oh my.
The Bible, a book more widely read and published than any other in the history of the world, is also the most proven and verified (historically and scientifically) than any other. Ever. Don’t believe me? Research it for yourself. Hundreds of resources to choose from. (Ping me if you need the references.)
Let’s start with Jesus. Is He Who He says He is in the Bible? If not, He is a liar. If a liar, could He have fulfilled 100% of over 400 prophesies about Himself, many before He was even born? Would promises He made all be true? Would people die for a liar, still even to this day over 2000 years later?
If not a liar, than a lunatic. If you aren’t God and claim to be, you are crazy. Know any crazies compelling enough to die for? Of the lunatics in our history claiming to be God, how many names do you remember today? Koresh? Jones? Manson? And of those, anyone think they were deity? Worth dying for? If Jesus was not a liar or a lunatic, then He is telling the truth about Himself.
So — the Bible. If you are led (by science, logic or faith) to believe Jesus is Who He says He is, then you believe His words are true. And if you believe His words are true, then you basically believe the Scriptures, the Bible, the Word of God. (Did you know Jesus is actually called, “The Word”?) If you believe He speaks the truth and cannot lie, then you believe the following (I believe the following):
1) Jesus Christ is the Son of God and God Himself. “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He has no beginning and no end. He was there when the heavens and earth and each of us were created. “He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.” He will return again, and maybe in the not-too-distant future. He will reign forever. “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.”
2) Humans are basically not good. Though created perfect, humankind has rebelled against God, fallen into a state of ‘sin’ and this rebellious state has been reflected in creation and passed on to all persons to this day. If left to their own devices, without law or religious belief, human beings naturally gravitate toward wickedness. The less a society or culture believes in a just God, the more depraved. History doesn’t lie. While God’s creation is good, we live in a “fallen state.” We can no more “be good” without God’s Spirit in us then we can fly without a plane. Trying to be good doesn’t cut it: “… there is no one who does good, not even one.”
3) We get one shot at it. A person is physically born once and physically dies once. The Bible says “man is appointed to live once, and then comes judgment.” There is no re-incarnation in Christianity. The Bible teaches that each person has an eternal “soul” and that soul is you, your identity. C.S. Lewis said, “You do not have a soul, you ARE a soul. You have a body.” Jesus taught that our soul is eternal, and that we pass from this life into eternity. We will either be with the Lord forever or live apart from Him forever. It all depends on the choices we make in this one life.
4) There is a hell and you don’t want to go there. Hell is horrible because it is eternal separation from God. Hell was not designed for humans, but for evil spirits who have rebelled against the Creator; who want no part of Him. “God is not willing that any should perish” in that terrible place, which is why He Himself came to earth to save us. Heaven, on the other hand, is built just for us! A perfect earth would be just glimpse of heaven. Those who serve God have a place in heaven waiting for them (not to mention the promise of perfect peace in this life). Before Jesus left this earth He said, “I go to prepare a place for you. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”
5) Jesus is the only means by which a human being can get to heaven. An intolerant statement? Let’s see: Jesus came to earth a human, was brutally murdered at the age of 33, was buried in a sealed and guarded tomb, and rose from the dead after three days. He was seen alive by many, many people (the same who saw him killed) for 40 days after that so there could be no doubt. “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Why do this? Why would God confine Himself in a human body and live on a fallen planet, then let Himself be tortured and killed in one of the worst ways conceivable? Because of a perfect and unimaginable love. “Long ago the Lord said: ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.'”
Humans are eternally separated from God because of sin (missing the mark) – a holy, perfect God cannot tolerate sin so we, a sinful human race, are forever separated from Him. A sacrifice was needed to make up for all of it. God in the form of man, Jesus, became that sacrifice. He sacrificed a perfect Son because of His amazing love for the people He created; for each and every person He created. I know you have heard that “God so loved the world that He gave up His one and only Son, so that anyone who believes in Him will never die but they will have life eternally.” (Or you have at least seen “JOHN 3:16” plastered on a fat sign at a sporting event…) We can accept that sacrifice or we can forfeit our life for an eternity separated from all that is Good. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Hardly intolerance – a God Who loves like that deserves a claim like that! And what does it mean for you if He is right?
Besides these reasons, and to wrap it up with a neat bow, I also personally know that:
1) There isn’t anything else credible enough for me to believe in. Sadly, some of my friends flit from one thing or another. Or the thing they believe in and cling to ends up a short-lived and hollow. Then they are off to another thing that sounds credible. Or they are mired in a religion filled with rituals and traditions that cover up or belie any semblance of a relationship with the person or thing they worship. Or they don’t even know what the religion they practice is really all about. Of the major religions I have studied, I cannot compare them with the “religion” of Christianity which claims a holy, just, merciful, and loving God Who says “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
The Bible says, that Satan masquerades as an “angel of light” and that he is the “father of lies” — that he “deceives the whole world” and lives only to “steal, kill and destroy.” I have seen it over and over again – people fall for the really real sounding fake and are totally disappointed or thoroughly duped. Or they can’t find a way out of the traditions of their fathers and ancestors. Either way, they are another step removed from a most loving, gracious, and merciful God. And one layer more hardened against Him and life that lasts forever.
2) I have experienced God’s presence in my life. OK, contrary to the above, where people are convinced their experiences also affirm their belief in something else, my experiences have been consistent and none of them have contradicted anything in Scripture. I have seen God answer prayer in miraculous ways. I have seen Him hold back His hand and let things happen where people thought all was lost, only to emerge stronger, better, and convinced that a “non answer” to their prayers was the best thing that could have happened. I’ve seen lives completely transformed, I’ve witnessed physical healing, and I have experienced His very real supernatural presence. The science, the history, the Scripture, the words and spiritual encounters of my family and close friends are all confirmed with my own experiences. “Jesus said to them, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
Don’t believe? Pray for understanding. “We know that the Son of God has come, and He has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and He is eternal life.” God will surely answer that prayer. “The Lord isn’t slow about keeping His promises, as some people think He is. In fact, God is patient, because He wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.”
Finally, a blessing from “a born-again”:
May the God of the universe and the God of my heart draw near to you as you draw near to Him.